AI, State of Treating 2024, and the Downs’ keynote – what to expect at SOTIC

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: GettyImages
Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Nca Chocolate Confectionery Candy SOTIC 24

The National Confectioners Association has been advising its members on artificial intelligence for the past 12 months, so it is no surprise it will play a major part of its State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) in Miami, which opens this Sunday.

By leveraging AI technologies, the confectionery industry can not only improve operational efficiency but also stay competitive in a rapidly evolving market by adapting to changing consumer preferences and industry trends.

Two sessions are planned at SOTIC for attendees to get their teeth into, including The Transformative Power of AI for Business with Paul Tepfenhart, Global Director of Retail & Consumer Solutions, Google Cloud, who will share practical insights into how retailers and brands can use AI to streamline operations, personalize shopper experiences, and drive innovation for greater success.

10 ways AI can contribute to the confectionery industry:

AI can provide various benefits to the confectionery industry by enhancing efficiency, improving product quality, and optimizing various processes.

AI SOTIC 24 GettyImages 2
  1. Quality control and inspection: AI-powered computer vision systems can be employed to inspect and ensure the quality of confectionery products on the production line. This includes identifying defects, ensuring proper packaging, and maintaining consistent product quality.
  2. Production optimization: AI algorithms can analyze production data to optimize manufacturing processes. This includes managing inventory levels, predicting demand, and adjusting production schedules to minimize waste and maximize efficiency.
  3. Recipe and flavor optimization: AI can assist in developing new and innovative flavor combinations by analyzing consumer preferences, market trends, and existing recipes. This can help confectionery companies create products that cater to evolving consumer tastes.
  4. Supply chain management: AI can improve supply chain efficiency by predicting demand, optimizing inventory levels, and streamlining logistics. This can result in reduced costs and improved responsiveness to market changes.
  5. Personalized marketing and recommendations: AI can analyze customer data to provide personalized product recommendations and targeted marketing strategies. This can enhance customer engagement and loyalty by tailoring promotions and advertisements to individual preferences.
  6. Energy consumption optimization: AI systems can analyze energy usage patterns in manufacturing facilities and identify opportunities for energy conservation, helping confectionery companies reduce their environmental footprint and operational costs.
  7. Predictive maintenance: AI algorithms can monitor equipment health and predict when machinery is likely to fail, enabling proactive maintenance to minimize downtime and improve overall production efficiency.
  8. Customer service and chatbots: AI-powered chatbots can enhance customer service by providing instant responses to customer queries, assisting with order tracking, and offering product recommendations based on individual preferences.
  9. Market trend analysis: AI can analyze market trends, social media, and consumer sentiment to provide insights into changing preferences and help confectionery companies stay ahead of the competition.
  10. Nutritional analysis and labeling: AI can assist in analyzing the nutritional content of confectionery products, helping companies comply with regulations and provide accurate information on product labels.


This is followed by The Transformative Power of AI for You! with Conor Grennan, Dean of MBA Students at NYU Stern and Head of GenerativeAI@Stern, who promises to unlock unlocks the secret to increased productivity and better outputs using generative AI.

John Downs, NCA President & CEO, will present his customary and entertaining keynote speech to set the agenda not only for the 700 attendees over two days in Miami but also over the next 12 months for the US chocolate and candy industry in general, which employs more than 58,000 people of the country’s workforce.

Carly Schildhaus, Director of Public Affairs & Communications at National Confectioners Association, told this publication: “We like to refer to the State of the Industry Conference as the confectionery industry’s family reunion and for good reason: people from throughout the industry are able to come together for three days of insights, updates and networking.”

“Of course, we’ll also be celebrating the industry – the category remains incredibly resilient and consumer enthusiasm for chocolate and candy only continues to grow.”

Since the last SOTIC 12 months ago, the US confectionery industry has weathered plenty of socio-economic storms resulting in rising costs of raw materials such as cocoa that have pushed up the price of chocolate and candy for consumers.

“While we can’t avoid some of the challenges that have impacted all industries, we are confident that confectionery will remain a sweet spot for retailers and consumers alike,” said Schildhaus.

One of the main issues that the NCA has been fighting for on behalf of the industry is the Influence of the US Sugar Program and the imperative need for contemporary reforms. This topic will be discussed in a ‘Fireside Chat’ with George Will, America’s foremost political columnist.

Another highlight of SOTIC is its annual State of Treating report, presented by Elise Fennig, NCA Chief of Staff & Senior Vice President of Operations. The study takes a critical look at what has changed over the past year and why, and outlines future patterns and demand.  

The NCA SOTIC takes place at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry, Florida from 10 to 12 March.

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